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Cox London

Sculptors and artisans, Chris and Nicola Cox first began working together in the mid 1990's, bonding over a shared love of the decorative arts. In 2005, the pair founded Cox London, a sculptural and art-based furniture and lighting brand, rooted in the tradition of design. Following a recent visit to their London foundry, we caught up with Chris to learn more about how the brand and its design processes.

You are both sculptors, does your experience as a sculptor help you visualise what a design on paper will look like in 3D?

Yes we have always had to understand the relationship between the 2 dimensional drawings we make and the resulting 3 dimensional pieces. After studying as a sculptor I trained in a chandelier and metalwork restoration workshop. One of my weekly tasks was to design and draw wooden bases for whatever ceramics had come in (usually an assortment of valuable and collectible vases) in order to lamp them sympathetically. I very quickly learnt that my drawn profiles, whilst slender on the page, were surprisingly large in the round as woodturnings. You quickly learn to account for this transformation!

Designs from the past seem to have an integral role in your design process, which eras of design do you predominantly turn to when designing?

I grew up in a household of antique dealers and artists
(3 generations and 12 dealers in all) whilst my grandfather and father dealt in early carved wood, furniture and sculpture, my grandmother dealt in antique jewelry. My mother paints in the naive style and my uncle was a brilliant collage artist and painter. When I restored antique metal ware, we took apart and reconstructed hundreds of pieces made from the last 300 years and every era had appealing design aspects, techniques and aesthetics. Then, Nicola and I have a great love of 20th century sculpture, in particular post modern bronze, stone and plaster. Having to choose one era or style for me is like being told you can only choose one favourite food. Impossible!

Has your way of designing changed over the years?

To a degree yes, although maybe we have just become more aware of our approach.
Our pieces vary a lot in style, some being distinct riffs on period design while others are far more sculptural and contemporary.
All of our pieces start with pencil drawings and these drawings are often 1:1 in scale.
When it comes to sculpture ‘pure’ Nicola often starts with a narrative and will read, write and sketch before starting a piece. I am more likely to start with a material and process, diving straight in to making marks and forms, returning to the drawing board later on to hone ideas.

You work with only the highest skilled craftsman, was it a lengthy process to find the right artisans?

We have been building our team for 15 years and have always been incredibly careful to employ the best artisans who think like us. They are always true makers with between 10 and 40 years experience in their field. We have art graduates, engineers, jewellers, bronze-founders, forgers and patination experts. Several of our team are showing artists or craftsman. London provides a very rich pool of experienced makers. When we meet someone who fits the team they are interviewed by myself and Nicola followed by a working interview when they have the opportunity to show us what they can do in the workshop. Our team has never been so experienced and knowledgeable and continues to grow steadily. The creativity extends to our gallery and office too where most have fine art or design backgrounds and a wealth of hands on
making experience.

You are passionate about using traditional production methods. Are they used throughout the whole manufacturing process?

Yes, at the core of our business there is a set of traditional skills that both Nicola and I were taught and practiced for many years. I was very surprised recently to see some of the most basic skills we practice here are considered “endangered”. If we can play our part in keeping traditional metalworking skills alive then we are definitely fulfilling an important part of our mission as a business. We also have our hearts set on creating a Cox London apprenticeship scheme where we can nurture young makers to carry old skills to a new generation of craftpeople...

What were your first products and are
they still part of today's collection?

We like to make pieces that stand the test of time and hopefully exist outside of the fast pace of fashion.
We are also self-sufficient, producing the majority of our designs in house which means we do not have to drop
anything from the collection. Our clients also come to us because we are able to re-scale and tailor our designs and in that way they commission a version of our existing design that no one else has. In this way our designs stay fresh and relevant.

Pieces like our Standard Oak Leaf Chandelier have endured for nearly 15 years and are just as popular as ever. Nicky and I drew, forged and soldered the first ones together over several months and sold them through my brother’s shop on The Lillie road (Matthew Cox Antiques). Since then they have been commissioned by some of the most celebrated interior designers and have been tailored for spaces worldwide.
In recent years we have reinvented the oak in many different forms, sizes and shapes for modern stairwells, castles, hunting lodges and modern apartments.

For further information, visit their London Showroom,
located at 194 Ebury St, Belgravia.

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